Sam Carlson is a New Haven based multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter. Since first sitting down to a trap kit in 2002 he has found an ever expanding appreciation for music and it's potency. Through primarily percussion he's had the pleasure of exploring a number of musical avenue's and seeing the country as a touring musician. Since making an earnest go at life as a professional musician in 2010 he has concentrated on producing and performing with a number of local and national acts including: Ports of Spain, 10K Blades, The Proud Flesh, Wess Meets West, Laundry Day, and more.
Check out these Facebook pages of Sam's bands!
Ports of Spain
The Proud Flesh
Check out this video of Sam playing with Ports of Spain!
Check out this interview with Sam!
Growing up in Fairfield, what go you into playing the drums?
I first started playing drums in the elementary school band but I really getting into it when I was in 8th grade. I was asked to be in band with some older guys and they already had some shows booked. Being forced to keep up with people who were older and already better at what they were doing, definitely forced me to practice a lot and try to get on their level.
When I was younger, I was kind of an indoor kid, like a Bobby Hill; sort of goofy guy. I didn’t really have anything that would make people stop and watch me. But if I was on stage and playing with this band, people would be there specifically to see me and be excited to see me. And I was like, this is how I can communicate with people, this is how I can be someone other than my regular self, even if it's just for a half hour at a time. I can get up on stage and be loud and obnoxious, instead of being quiet and reserved. So when I realized that, I was kind of stuck. I knew then that I was gonna be on stage for the rest of my life.
Who are your favorite drummers or musicians, and how have they affected your playing?
Lately the people who have effected me the most are songwriters. Being a drummer is great because you get a really good look at where sections in songs begin and end, and how the transitions work and things like that. So people who arrange songs very well, really appeal to me. There is this band, Hospitality, Amber Papini is the songwriter. Everything they do is perfectly formed and all the melodies are really interesting.
Increasingly, I’ve found myself influenced by people who are arranging songs in a way that I think are silly. I would look at a choice and think, that's kind of ridiculous and I'm not going to do that. For example, there’s this guy Gregory Pepper who is signed to a Connecticut label called, Fake Four. He makes all these bizarre choices with his song structures that when I listen to him, I know that if it was me writing this song, I would of stopped myself from doing that thing. Like this is a bridge too far or something like that. So I’ve been feeling like you have to be judicious with what you do, but you have to be adventures first.
What drummers have you been into lately?
I have been really into Mark Guiliana, who is just fantastic, and Glenn Kotche. When talking about control, Glenn’s really had a huge influence on me. When I started listening to Wilco, I was also listening to a lot of Math Rock, and Prog and stuff that is super notey. And when Glenn playing in Wilco, he can show off and get notey, but a lot of the time his playing is very reserved and precisely the right thing to play, it’s like an exercise in restraint.
What is your favorite part about being in a band?
It's the best way to travel! If you're in a band, people want to meet you. If you go to a new town you don’t have to worry about trying to meet new people because they will already be there ready to meet you and be your friend. People want to help, and let you stay with them, or give you gas money or they’ll feed you.
Touring is like a paid vacation. I’ve gotten to see a number of places and have gotten to know these places in a way that I wouldn’t have, if I had not been there as a touring musician.
What keeps you motivated to keep continue on the path of being a musician?
A lot of my past work, even things that I’ve just done, every time I feel that I could of done it slightly better. My band Ports of Spain will be releasing a record in October, and I was listening to it the other day and heard all of these little things that I think I could of done better. But of course the record is done and that’s how it's gonna be released. So the only thing I can do is make another record, and make that better.
Also being able to watch yourself progress. It's like trying to wrap your hands around something but you can’t quite do it. But if you keep trying it, one day you’ll wake up and try to do it, and you’ll have it. And that's an incredible feeling. It's a unique pleasure.
Looking into the future, what are you goals as a musician.
I’m working on a solo record right now and that I’m hoping to release in the next 6 months. Ports of Spain is releasing an EP on the 12th of October. Laundry Day is putting out a split record with a band called Bears, who are awesome. And the Proud Flesh are working on a record now and 10,000 Blade are mixing a record right now. So in the next 6 months I’ll be releasing 5 different records with all different projects.
Once these records are out, what are your plans?
More touring and more recording! I like them both equally and want to keep it going.
What advice do you have to any drummer that is looking to take the next step in their career?
Fake it till you make it! More specifically if there is a next step you want to by taking, you should already be trying to take that step. And you’ll fail at that step numerous time, but one of those times you won’t. And then you’ll have made it.
For example if you’re thinking about starting a home recording, the time to do that was yesterday. Get a cheap interface and a cheap mic and just starting doing it and get your bearing. I think Benjamin Franklin said that, “Good luck is preparation meeting with opportunity.” If you are suddenly called upon to play an album worth of drums for your favorite band, by the time that opportunity comes, you should definitely know how to play with a click track. So prepare, so when that chance comes, you’ll be ready.